Delhi can be a headache for the first-time visitor because of scams to entrap the unwary – even down to dumping dung onto visitors’ shoes and, then charging them to clean it off. The most common wheeze, though, is for taxi drivers or touts to convince you that the hotel you’ve chosen is full, closed or has just burned to the ground so as to take you to one that pays them commission. They may even pretend to phone your hotel to check, or will take you to a travel agent (often claiming to be a “tourist office”) who will do it, dialling for you (a different number); the “receptionist” on the line will corroborate the story, or deny all knowledge of your reservation. The driver or tout will then take you to a “very good hotel” – usually in Karol Bagh – where you’ll be charged well over the odds for a night’s accommodation. To reduce the risk of being caught out, write down your taxi’s registration number (make sure the driver sees you doing it), and insist on going to your hotel with no stops en route. Heading for Paharganj, your driver may try to take you to a hotel of his choice rather than yours. To avoid this, you could ask to be dropped at New Delhi railway station and walk from there. You may even encounter fake “doormen” outside hotels who’ll tell you the place is full; check at reception first, and even if the claim is true, never follow the tout to anywhere he recommends. These problems can be avoided by reserving in advance; many hotels will arrange for a car and driver to meet you at your point of arrival.
New Delhi railway station is the worst place for touts; assume that anyone who approaches you here – even in uniform – with offers of help, or to direct you to the foreigners’ booking hall, is up to no good. Most are trying to lure travellers to the fake “official” tourist offices opposite the Paharganj entrance, where you’ll end up paying way over the odds, often for unconfirmed tickets. And don’t believe stories that the foreigners’ booking hall has closed.
On Connaught Place and along Janpath, steer clear of phoney “tourist information offices” (which touts may try to divert you to – a typical CP tout chat-up line is to inform you which block you are on, so be suspicious of anyone who comes up and tells you that unasked), and never do business with any travel agency that tries to disguise itself as a tourist information office.
Finally, be aware that taxi, auto and rental-car drivers get a hefty commission for taking you to certain shops, which will be added to your bill should you buy anything. You can assume that auto-wallahs who accost you on the street do so with the intention of overcharging you, or of taking you to shops which pay them commission rather than straight to where you want to go. Always hail a taxi or auto-rickshaw yourself, rather than taking one whose driver approaches you, and don’t let them take you to places where you haven’t asked to go.